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Responsible Mining in the Elk Valley

Teck operates four steelmaking coal mines in the Elk Valley of British Columbia which employ over 4,000 people. We raise our families in the valley, fish and swim in the river and care deeply about ensuring the environment is protected. That’s why we’re focused on responsible mining and ensuring that the environment and water quality are maintained in the valley now and for generations to come.

Water Quality in the Elk Valley

Over the last five years, significant progress has been made towards achieving the objectives of the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan, a long-term approach to address the management of selenium and other substances released by mining activities in the Elk Valley.

Our goal is to stabilize and reverse the trend of selenium and other substances to ensure the ongoing health of the watershed, while at the same time allowing for continued sustainable mining in the region.

The first water treatment facility was built and is now successfully operating at full capacity at our Line Creek operation. We are applying what we’ve learned to build a larger facility which is under construction now at our Fording River operation. As a result, we are seeing reductions in selenium and nitrate concentrations downstream of the Line Creek facility and we expect further significant reductions in other areas as future facilities come on line.

One of the most exciting opportunities has come from our Research and Development program, which has developed a new form of water treatment using Saturated Rock Fills (SRF). Our first SRF water treatment facility has been commissioned at Elkview Operations and is achieving near complete removal of selenium and nitrate. SRF water treatment technology can help to achieve water quality objectives more quickly and efficiently than other forms of treatment. The SRF at Elkview is treating up to 10 million litres of water each day and we have plans to expand the Elkview SRF to treat 20 million litres per day, and replace the previously planned tank-based water treatment facility at Elkview.

Download the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan Five Year Update

Water quality challenges in the Elk Valley are connected to the long history of mining in the region. The mining process generates large quantities of leftover rock that contains naturally-occurring substances such as selenium, an element that is essential for human and animal health in small amounts. Water from both precipitation and runoff flows through these rock piles and carries selenium and other substances, such as nitrate, into the local watershed. If present in high enough concentrations in the watershed, these substances can adversely affect aquatic health.


We are conducting extensive studies and monitoring of water quality and aquatic health which includes regular water quality sampling at approximately 100 stations in the Elk Valley. To date, regional monitoring indicates that current levels of selenium and other substances are not impacting populations of fish or birds. Monitoring shows that selenium concentrations have been reduced downstream of our operational water treatment facility at Line Creek as a result of water treatment and we expect further significant reductions as the Fording and Elkview facilities come on line.

Sharing Monitoring Results
Teck is committed to being transparent with stakeholders as we implement the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan. We make data and results from ongoing water quality, aquatic and animal health research and monitoring undertaken as part of the Plan available, and we will continue to share those results going forward. This includes Annual Reports completed by an Environmental Monitoring Committee comprised of an independent scientist and representatives from the B.C. Government, Ktunaxa Nation Council, Interior Health Authority, and Teck. Monitoring reports related to the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan can be found here. 

2019 Fish Counts

As part of our planned monitoring, the results of the 2019 Westslope Cutthroat Trout fish counts were 74% lower for juveniles and 93% lower for adults than the 2017 counts in the Fording River upstream of Josephine Falls. Fish counts for juveniles were 96% lower in Harmer Creek and 25% lower in Grave Creek, while fish counts for adults were 26% lower in Harmer Creek and 25% higher in Grave Creek compared to 2018 counts. Harmer and Grave Creeks are located in watersheds adjacent to Teck’s Line Creek and Elkview Operations and flow into the Elk River 4.5 km south of the confluence of the Elk and Fording Rivers. The final Upper Fording River report can be found here.
The reasons for the lower fish counts are unknown at this time. Teck has established a team of external experts led by Beth Power, a Registered Professional Biologist and Approved Professional with over 30-years experience, to evaluate possible causes and deliver a report later this year. Using science and local knowledge, the expert team is examining a range of possible causes including water quality, water use, predation, food availability and algae among others. 
Teck is also working with the Ktunaxa Nation Council, government regulators, the Environmental Monitoring Committee and the Elk Valley Fish and Fish Habitat Committee to gather more data, evaluate possible causal factors and address ongoing protection of fish. We are taking precautionary measures to limit handling and sampling of fish and limit water use at our operations during low-flow periods.

Teck is investing $30 million this year in over 20 research and development projects. These include projects to continue to improve our understanding of water quality, source control and treatment options. Three examples of this work are:

  • Alternative treatment technologies We are exploring the use of smaller water treatment facilities that can be built much closer to where the treatment is needed.

  • Nitrate prevention This includes using liners that prevent explosives that contain nitrate – used in the mining process – from coming in contact with water.

  • Waste Covers We are continuing to evaluate different forms of physical covers for waste rock piles ranging from vegetative to geosynthetic covers to see if feasible and effective options can be identified.

Elk Valley Water Treatment Facilities

We are building water treatment facilities at our Elk Valley operations to ensure the health of the watershed.

Water Treatment Technologies

We are using innovative water treatment technologies to achieve the objectives of the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan.

Saturated Rock Fills use naturally-occurring biological processes in former mining areas that have been backfilled with rock and saturated with water to remove selenium and nitrate:

  1. Water for treatment is injected into the SRF

  2. Natural bacteria convert dissolved forms of selenium into a solid form which remains securely stored in the SRF and nitrate to inert nitrogen gas which is safely released

  3. Treated water is pumped out of the SRF and discharged

The benefits of SRF over other forms of water treatment:

  • Quicker to build and less complex to operate

  • Lower capital and operating costs

  • Treat larger volumes of water

  • Use less energy

  • Smaller environmental footprint


This biological treatment process removes nitrate and transforms selenium into a solid form through a process that includes the following steps:

  • Biological treatment to convert dissolved forms of selenium to solid form

  • Nitrate is converted into inert nitrogen gas and safely released

  • Solid selenium is extracted and safely disposed of in a secure onsite waste facility

  • Treated water is discharged

Clean water diversions involve the construction of earthen dikes or other physical barriers and/or pipes to direct clean water around mining activities.

Biodiversity and Mining

Biodiversity and Mining

At Teck, we are working to achieve our vision of a net positive impact on biodiversity in areas affected by our activities.

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To learn more and provide feedback please fill out this form or contact us at

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Research and Monitoring Reports

Research and Monitoring Reports
Results of ongoing water quality research and monitoring undertaken as part of the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan.
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Community Connections

Community Connections
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Teck is a diversified resource company committed to responsible mining and mineral development with major business units focused on copper, steelmaking coal and zinc, as well as investments in energy assets.